A willingness to look

Okay then ... up before 5:00 in the morning again. Sheesh! What is it? Sun spots? Moon phases? Midsummer? Midlife? Pretty silly to be up at this hour if you ask me. But here I am. Not exactly rarin' to go, either. But definitely not going back to sleep.

Last bit of "class" today. The class meetings are over, but this last bit is a meeting with the instructor. Each student receives the instructor's recommendations for using (or not using) PLA as a way to obtain credits for the degree the student is pursuing. I'm looking forward to hearing what she has to say. And of course, I am also wishing that I could find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow so I could pay for the whole thing.

This is a good day for this appointment. It will be nice to have someone tell me what I am capable of, and talk to me about possibilities. I'd like to see some more pieces of this back-to-school puzzle, even if I can't figure out how to put it all together yet.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the car broke last night! It just ... stopped going. After using this car for the 50 mile drive into Portland and the 50 mile drive home (with a couple of stops on the way), the thought did occur that the timing could have been worse. At least the car made it all the way back to our own town and the bottom of the long hill up to our house before it got into its mood.

And we still have no financial aid letter from one son's college for the fall, and the other one - for the other son - was pretty lousy. It won't stop them, though. They're going to do what it takes.

And I had an appointment with the Chinese medicine people yesterday, where I will be getting as much acupuncture, herbal, and advising support as I can, both before and after the surgery I will have to have next month. Surgery - not good news. Chinese medical support for the whole thing - couldn't have it any better. I am grateful to live here, where the different ways can help each other.

And I got an answer to my request for a particular bit of music I heard on Ancient Faith Radio. "This music was recorded by Sts. Constantine and Helen Orthodox Church in Colorado Springs. The bad news is that it is not commercially available. The good news is that Fr. Anthony Karbo at the parish has given us permission to make CDs if people request it."

That's how it goes these days.

It's funny to me sometimes. A couple of decades ago, the "bad news" part of the "I have good news and bad news" routine seemed to me to weigh slightly more. It seemed to be a warning - or a punishment - or a sort of day of reckoning. My life couldn't be as good as I thought it was, right? See what happens? Aren't happy all the time, are you, Miss Smarty? See? This is real life. Not that dream world you live in. For awhile there, my childhood's habit of happiness seemed merely childish.

Eventually, though, I remembered a few things.

I remembered that the "bad news" of the rough practice sessions for choirs, or the backaches at the piano bench, or the sore leg muscles of a long hike are not signals of errors. They are signals of work. And in this life, some things (like Faith, or Hope, or health or creativity) have to be worked at. That's not a bad thing.

I remembered that it's silly - and selfish - and really childish - to complain when when a gift is being given to me, just because I wanted a blue one instead of a red one. The bad and the good together, the easy and the hard, the expected and the unexpected ... why would I think it would be other than that?

And would I really want that? Would I really want a life where I already know every challenge or difficulty ahead of time? Well, no, actually. First of all, there's the obvious fact that we can't "handle it" until it is in our hands. Trying to anticipate "handling it" would make me stay in bed forever. We cannot know our strength or our weaknesses ahead of time. It just doesn't work that way.

But there's this other thing.

You know what I'd miss out on if I needed all my news to be good news?

The sheer joy of the surprise view. That's what I would miss.Sometimes the beauty of the unexpected view just about knocks me over. Every once in awhile, I come around a corner in my life, and POW! There it is. Glory. Exquisite beauty. There is no way to prepare for life's changes and chances - the bad ones or the good ones either. There is only the question of building a life that is willing to look.


Midsummer's breath

Today is the last Monday in July. This morning, I felt it. Did you feel it yet where you live? It's the air. The light. Every summer there is a day when the morning is cool enough for me to wimp out and make the pellet stove go for awhile to take off the chill, but I've left a few of the windows open for freshness. The day will warm up to nearly too warm by the afternoon, and then settle down in the evening again. This first breath - it's not going to stay. It's not autumn tomorrow or anything like it. This first breath is a promise.

The green surrounding me now is dark and lush and deep. Spring came and went, and this is high summer. Nothing looks tired yet. No color has faded. Right now, the land is just pregnant enough to be big, but not uncomfortable. This is what growth feels like. After a few more spates of real heat, and after a couple of spectacular thunder and lightning storms and perhaps a day or two of huge, splashing raindrops to really soak everything before the autumn comes for real, then we'll feel the real thing. This isn't the real thing. This first breath is just a thought. It's midsummer now. This is midsummer's breath.

I wonder ... do the generations of the Norse who came before me still pulse in my body's veins? To stay up all night - into the midsummer's midnight - to
head off to a lovely summer party under a Nordic sky that never quite gets dark before the sun rises once again.
... this seems to me to be a thoroughly good and sensible idea. There is something of the earth and the sky and the sun and the seasons crying out to be celebrated. No. Not crying out. Whispering. Breathing. Tempting.

Last year and the year before, I don't think it hit me like this. But this year I've started a blog about our adventures in homeschooling, and I think that's made everything come back to me in a rush. I can almost smell newly sharpened pencils. Ghostly visions of stacks of filler paper and new books accumulating in readiness float past my mind's eye at random. It's the air and the light - it's time. Get ready. Here it comes.

When I was a kid, this weather was camp weather. Little kids went to camp in June. Older kids in July. By this time of the year, it was high schoolers, and I was one of them. Every year, I was a camper. And I really do not like camp life. I don't like showering at the pool house, or sharing a sleeping cabin with eight people I don't know, or hearing another mosquito in my sleeping bag where I'm already suffocating and sweating with the top pulled closed in a vain attempt to get away from the nasty things. I don't like the smell of the bathrooms or the persistent dirt under my fingernails. I still feel the place in my back that was hurt when I fell wrong on the trampoline one day.

Nothing about camp as camp was the least bit happy-making for me. But every year, I was a camper. I took pictures, and I did love riding horses, and I can still go a little glazed at the smell of certain paints and solvents because they're the smell of the craft room. I made friends, and took an autograph album and/or an address book every year so that I wouldn't lose them when the week was over. And I would like to get back on a trampoline ... after all, it feels like flying.

And midsummer is about new clothes, too. This is the weather for fabric and pattern shopping. Perhaps it is the time of year when she had enough time to devote to it -- or maybe this is when she didn't have enough time to put it off any longer. Or, maybe this is the time of year close enough to the fall for it to be at least a little likely that I was the size (translation: height) I was going to be for the school year. Whatever the reason, this is the time of the year when my mom and I spent hours and hours in fabric stores, choosing the materials and patterns for school dresses and skirts.

We had a system. We looked at patterns together, and then we looked at fabrics together or apart (to cover more of the store), and then at Notions. (Do regular, non-sewing people know what Notions are? -- They're things like zippers and thread and trims and hem tapes.)

When we got home, we washed the fabrics, and then she laid out patterns on the fabrics, and I cut things out. She sewed and clipped. I clipped and took out basting. Sometimes I also ripped things out and she sewed them back together the way she'd meant them to be in the first place.

During high school, I did most of the sewing myself - but mom always did the zippers. I still remember some of those dresses I made for myself. At this time of the year, the sewing machine (the old one, from those old days, that now lives here in my house) joins the whispered hints of the coming autumn. I walk by, and I can almost hear it.

Midsummer's whispers woke me this morning. Can you hear them where you are? I'm sure it's different in different parts of the globe, but here, this is when it happens. This is the morning. Today. The first day of the year when I woke before everyone else in the house, and wondered whose voice I had heard in my sleep. On the way back to consciousness I realized I was fully under the covers because it was just chilly enough for that. And then I opened my eyes and saw the light. The earth is full and almost ready to spill over, and I feel my arms opening to gather it in.


Truthful US

Americans detest all lies

except lies spoken in public

or printed lies.

Edgar Watson Howe



Currently in my living room:
Father and son watching In the Edges: The Grizzly Man Session, a 50 minute documentary on the making of the film's music.

Currently in my kitchen:
"You instilled in your children a great love of the artistic process."


"Normally that would be a compliment."


We have a very small house when it holds a TV show someone in the house would rather not watch.



From this rather remarkable book about Writing ...

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

Thomas Edison



You know you've quite truly and most thoroughly relaxed on vacation when...

... you say, "yeah, I can do that" to the offer of work hours in the next three days.

... the fact that your house is dirtier and messier than it was when you left is a fact which registers only as a far-off blip on the Tensionometer.

... everything looks interesting again.


I always want to know

Whenever someone says, "this works," I always want to know

Why does it work?

What is true about this? Where is the connection?

Why does it work here? Will it work somewhere else? What, in this, is universal?

Really, I do not take credit for this train of thought. I don't. It's just the way my brain connects things to other things and makes a perspective about Reality. But I know it's merely a perspective. So that's why I always want to know

What are you looking at?

What do you see?

Those are not the same question - they are two questions. You may be looking at the same thing I observe, and we may see two things, entirely different - or we two may see three or ten or a hundred things.

Usually, though, what we see is there. Somehow, it is there.

And if, through age or experience or just plain old exhaustion, I lose the ability to stand where you stand, and see - at least a little - what you see

If I become unwilling or unable to shift a bit to one side or the other, or to squint in the light just so, and find your focus and trace at least the outline of your vision,

I will know that I am dead.

Until then, until the day I say to you, "I cannot see it. It is not there," if you tell me there's a boat, there's a boat. Show me.

If you see his leg, give him a call

The 47-year-old road worker has put up posters in the rural area where he thinks the leg landed after a June 14 skydive.
No kidding. The dude skydives, and his leg fell off! So ... if you happen to see it lying about somewhere, he'd like to hear from you. And his friends?
Amy Gunderson, 36, said the only thing she has ever lost in more than 600 jumps was some change. "I just laughed," she said of Listemann. "He's the only guy who's lost his foot twice."

Unconscious development

When I was this girl, learning to play that piano (which currently sits in my own dining room), I honestly and truly did not know that the real reason I could walk above the floor or the ground sometimes and not other times was because it could only happen in my dreams. I had to be asleep. It wasn't, it turned out, a matter of doing it just right - balancing just so. It was, sadly, something I could do only if I were asleep. (dang!)

It's a pretty cool thing to be able to do, you know. I've invited dozens of people to try it with me, but they either don't seem to know I'm speaking at all, or they tell me they don't know what I'm talking about, or they tell me to hush up. I think a couple of people have tried it ... but that was a long time ago. It's not really hard to do. You just step off the earth - do it just so - and sometimes you're near a ceiling, and sometimes you're just above the group of people or moving around or floating. You kind of have to discover what it's going to be each time you do it.

Eventually, I did figure out (I suppose) that embodied people who are awake and walking around on the earth can't step up off of it. But the ability to do it is inside of me still, and now I've done a little research. Dreams like that are all about possibilities and dreams and ideas. That makes sense. Inside myself, there are lots of things that feel like that. Some of them don't even have names, but there are a lot of them. In my dreams, they're more accessible to me, that's all.

But the thing is, a long time ago, the walking above the ground thing - it was tricky. I had to concentrate to hold it, or I'd fall off. ("Fall off? What are you talking about? Fall off the air?" "Yeah. Fall off the air. Just kind of slip off and end up back on the floor.")

And other people didn't like it - if they could see it at all. So I tended, back then, to keep it to myself. Or be quiet up there, so no one would notice. They were slightly frustrating dreams back then. Not happy, but not nightmares either. They held out to me a way to experience the freedom I held inside myself, but I had to be so very careful about the effect on other people. I couldn't have fun with it.

And now I can!

Last night it happened again. That's the second time.

The first time, I was doing flips and rolls and that slide across the room on two knees that Johnny Depp does in Benny & Joon. It was a blast.

And people could see me, and they thought it looked like fun, and they liked my having that much fun, but I didn't have anyone joining me. I was having a solo party in the midst of the other people, them with their feet on the floor, me all over the room, playing in the air like a kind of human porpoise in the water. It felt great!

Now this. Now I bent my legs as if kneeling in prayer, but I was not praying. I was zooming from one room to another, and my lower legs were like rudders, steering me around the corners, and just slightly out of the reach of my sister. Yeah! My adult sister - and me, an adult too. She was being a good sport about it, but it wasn't really fair. Nobody walking on the floors is going to be able to catch up to and stop someone speeding around up, off the floor, with lower leg rudders for direction.

So ... if everyone in your dreams is you ... if dreams are for sorting out the stuff that stays in the background when you're awake ... if dreams of walking on air are dreams about ideas and theories and possibility ... and if having these dreams as a child brought mostly frustration and feelings of being ignored or misinterpreted ... but now the dreams are full of play ...?

I can't wait to see what happens next! And sometimes - is it possible? - sometimes other people want to play with me, up there, and over there, and around the corner, and on the air currents.
It's pretty fun ... wanna try it? C'mon. I'll show you. Please?


Feels like a decade

Politics: n., Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.

Ambrose Bierce

(I'm soooooo tired of the "election year" campaigns. Is it wrong to start to ask myself the question, "whose voice can I stand to listen to for the next four years?" and call THAT the deciding factor?)


Last night was the last of the four class sessions for this one-credit inquiry class for Prior Learning Assessment. We had guest speakers - heads of departments and representatives from the various departments, speaking to how PLA fits in with their various degree programs. We talked about how standardized testing fits into degree programs. We got just a little bit better at laying our own hands on our own futures - no kidding.

It's been an amazing process, mostly because the instructor has the students not only complete assignments and provide information, but also evaluate their own work, discuss options for using it, and find new ways to see it in the first place. Marylhurst is a place where the students own their own learning. Sounds corny, maybe, but it's true. I've seen it now.

So ... it wasn't conventional classroom pedagogy. It was a combination of hands-on, personalized, lecture, group work, and written work. The format of the thing was nothing I have ever seen. (But I'd also say that it's exactly what the best of home schooling would grow up to be.) So it wasn't familiarity that made me so quietly, contentedly happy for the past month of "school." It's not college like I've ever seen before. There was something else there for me. Something deeper. I have to draw the conclusion that it's the learning itself. It's "school" in that sense. That's what I love. That's where I'm headed.


Old dogs, old tricks

Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?
Henry Ward Beechersigh ...

You know ... I really did almost convince myself that this time it would be different. This would be the time we would break out. Do something unheard of - unprecedented - new and different, and fully fitting the marking of The Occasion. It's our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary today, for cryin' out loud! That's a big deal! We should travel. Go to Canada or Europe --- or Seattle. But no. What are we going to do?

Well, we did get rings. His ring is refabbed - mine is new. I love the way mine feels on my right hand. I've wanted a nice ring for that hand for a long time, and this one feels so natural and sleek. I love it. And it's mighty nice to have my married husband wearing his wedding ring again.

But seriously, folks. Wouldn't you think that we could think of something amazing and different? Something we've never done before? A big party - we don't even ever have a big party. (It's probably because we don't like big parties.) No, not us. We're going to go to the beach, and we're going to go to the bookstore on our way out of town! Sheesh! The car probably knows by now how to do this routine without our even steering it.

Wouldn't you think I'd be ... well ... a little disappointed?

I tried to be. I did! I really tried to work myself into a pout and a funk and a fuss. But I couldn't pull it off! In truth, I think it's a little bit funny - and I think it's very dear and comfortingly "us" that we're so chronically dorky. Today's the anniversary - but he goes to work, and I go to school. On Friday, when he gets away from work as early as possible, we'll just do what we've been doing for a quarter of a century. (Sounds impressive, that does.) We'll pack the car (probably using a couple of clothes baskets, which we prefer to suitcases), and we'll head through Portland and stop at Movie Madness, and then at Powell's. He'll stand around in the Lit section, and probably visit Religion, Philosophy, and History too, and I'll wander in the Writing-Ref. section and then into the Poetry and Lit sections, with a short walk through my favorite parts of the Children's Room. We will have done the same thing in other sections at the movie place. We're like a commercial for an old brewery or something - "why mess with tradition?" That sort of thing.

It's probably time to stop wondering when we're going to be innovative with our well-worn habits, eh?

I might as well settle down. That's just who we are. We're the people who gather up books and other things to read (foreign and domestic), stash a few good films (also foreign and domestic), a change of clothes, and something fantastic to eat into the trunk, and drive off to the beach. We almost never listen to the radio. We generally hold hands - until the conversation requires the movement of the hands - and it often does. This weekend, we'll just be us, driving toward the beach again. It's what we do. Ever since this day, twenty-five years ago.



What the public criticizes in you, cultivate.
It is you.

Jean Cocteau, French film director


Couldn't help but fall in love again

There is a definite advantage to having kids grow up and:
--know me,
--understand what I like,
--like what they like,
--and know where the two things meet.

Less curly young giant just told me about She&Him. Nice, eh? I'll have to find a CD of my own, I think.

The Rehearsal

During the summer before we got married, we attended several weddings together. The people I'd graduated from high school with four years before had finished college, and they were pairing off like a flock of turtledoves, all over the city. During that summer we decided that:

... we didn't want to be confused about the order of service and accidentally try to leave before the thing was over.

... we didn't want the sound of the zoo train in the audio tape of the service.

... neither one of us would be singing to the other during the ceremony (not that that was ever a serious option for us - but still - it wasn't pretty).

... simple is elegant, and over the top is just over the top.

... detailed plans were a good idea.

So we planned. Man, oh man, did we plan. I went back to school in the fall, and during that semester, during the winter break, and all during the next semester, our plans were finalized -- repeatedly -- often. We designed my dress together. We talked about the ceremony itself. We talked about everything ... what choice was there for conversation? We were a continent away from each other, and we only wanted one thing, so that's the thing we talked about.

Eventually, we had a plan we wanted to keep. And this plan meant that on the day itself, the only tiny little bubble was the pretty cute fact that our little ring bearer kept trying to "fold his hands" for the prayer, and the slippery ring pillow kept popping out of his arms and onto the floor. Hafta admit - that's one eventuality that hadn't occurred to me. But it was cute, so who cared? We didn't think about it at the rehearsal either, but the kid was obviously thinking about something, wouldn't you say? The Day itself was pretty nearly perfect. We made all our silly little goofinesses on the rehearsal night. See this one? I know that look in his eye. He was bothering someone about something, but he's fairly subtle when he does this. It usually takes people a second to figure it out. And then it's mighty funny.This one bears looking at as well. (And aren't we who lived through it all quite glad that the bug-eye glasses finally went out of fashion? May they rest in peace!)The conversation between the groom and the two ministers was providing adequate cover, apparently. The best man was attempting to untie the groom's shoe, which, you'll note, both the flower girl and the bride have noticed. I wonder what the flower girl thought of the bride smacking the head of the best man - it's apparent that she did not approve of the shennanigans. And ... just where is my other shoe, anyway? Why am I only missing one of them?

See this girl? She spoke the first words I heard the next morning on my wedding day. She'd been sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor of my room, and she woke up saying, "I can't do this." I informed her that she would do this, and that was the end of that conversation! (Poor kid. She and her brother candle-lighter were the most nervous two people of that whole day! I must say, I had no sympathy for their plight.)

We did do some serious rehearsing in the middle of all of this. The pastor told us we were the first couple, in all the years of his pastoring, to hand him a detailed outline for the service when we got to the rehearsal. We planned, I tell you. We planned. He was genuinely pleased as Punch - usually the organizing and explaining fell to him, and I think it must've been like herding cats for him to get everyone to cooperate. But we handed him an outline. His naturally orderly heart was made happy with that. And my naturally planning heart had made copies of the outline for everyone else as well. All that planning wasn't going to be for nothing. If nothing else, the best man can study his notes while the soloist runs through his song.


Summer of 1983

See these two kids? They'd just decided they were meant for each other. They're at Carol and Kathy's apartment, and they're perfectly happy to just be happy. All the time. Really. All the time. Annoying, actually. But they didn't even care.That was in January of 1982.

A few months later, they looked like this: I think - not sure - but I think the proposal had been officially accepted by this time. That's from the summer of '82, and it was taken by heaven-only-knows-who somewhere in the Gorge, on one of our many, many, many drives through the old highway and waterfall area. The thing that makes this day different is the fact that it wasn't raining. We used to joke that all we had to do to make it rain was get into the car.

By the next summer, we'd known for a year and a half that we wanted to be married. We were very very ready to be done with it and start our life together. A few weeks before the wedding, we took pictures to choose from for the newspaper. I liked this one a lot,
but we needed a head shot. I think this is the one we chose. Over the years, people have asked where the smile was. There was a smile - there were lots of smiles. But for us, mostly there were emotions and thoughts that had nothing to do with grinning like Cheshire cats. There is a happiness that goes very deep indeed. That was the kind we had. That is the kind we have, actually.


Saturday morning living room conversation

"You could be a research assistant."

"I would love that job!"

"The research assistant on Monty Python was trying to help get the blancmange, and she didn't seem to know very much."

"Monty Python and Marx Brothers tell you everything you need to know in life."

"Unless you're working on the excavator. Then it's Three Stooges."




Summer morning dream

I've been looking over the catalog. There is not one course in the "Human Studies Courses," in either the "Integrative Foundation Colloquia" or in the list of "Special Topics" that I don't want to take. I want all of them. ALL of them, I say! All I have to do is figure out how to get from here to there.

That's all.

Here I am, without any transferable degree or credits, and without financing.

All I have to do is figure out how to get over there - where those classes are. See what's over there? Look.

Throughout the lifespan, humans experience constant
change and growth in body, mind, and spirit. Exploring
different views and practices from around the world, the
goal of this seminar is to expand the student’s awareness
and understanding of the processes involved in holistically
integrating the growth of body, mind, and spirit. Fulfills the
Systems course requirement for Human Studies majors. Meets LAC outcome: HCC1. 3 crs.

And there's this one too.

This course explores and integrates the change process within
the systems we live in: body, self, family, group, organizational,
and societal. Various models of change are examined: Campbell’s
writings on the hero’s journey; the readiness to change
model; Schutz’s integrative biological/psychological/ organizational/
societal model; and the family life cycle model of Carter
and McGoldrick. Useful and practical strategies to deal with the
change process are discussed. Fulfills Systems course requirement
for Human Studies majors. Meets LAC outcome: HCC2. 3 crs.

Just looking at it brings on some kind of nasty swarm of harpy faeries. They know when I'm looking across the distance, and they can see what I'm looking at. They rise up off the turf, and they flit and fly around my head, and they say, "But what are you going to do with it? What is it for?" And the rocks and the root systems begin to pulse with the beat of "too much money too much money." If I ignore them - and I can, for a little while - and if I keep gazing off into the distance in that direction, a smell begins to engulf me. I do not know where it comes from, but I know what it is.
It is the smell of the Punishment for Dreams. And it's toxic. Stand in it long enough to breathe it all the way in, and you'll be violently ill. This, I learned a long time ago.

There are only two ways to make it all stop. If I simply look away, all the annoying flitting things dissipate and go back to their nearby perches and hidey holes, the ground holds still again, and the smell evaporates. It works every time. Just stop wanting it. One hundred percent of the time, poof. Instant calm. Just look away, and the unpleasantness stops.

But there's another way.



"Take steps."

Youth made the stepping easier. A couple of decades ago, I could just avoid all the unpleasantness. I could, in fact, ignore it completely. There was enough movement in my youthful self that I could sometimes deny the very existence of this phenomenon. But I've had too many birthdays for that to be true now.

Now I have to choose. Look away ... or walk. I know now how much effort it takes to walk. I know how easy it is to stay - and glance across the distance from time to time - but never for long enough to disturb the faeries or get the ground to pulse. I know how to look and not get sick. I could do that. But ... I saw something this morning, while I was looking over there.

This course focuses on the components of and preconditions
that foster positive change through narrative communication
and how that communication can shape the whole person.
Students will look at why stories are often so empowering
when other forms of instruction have failed. They will use
their own life stories to see how transformative sharing can
reframe personal history. Meets LAC outcome: HCC5. 3 crs.

I've made an appointment with my academic advisor. Don't tell the faeries.


Strange Vibrating Sensation

I do not like to find spiders in my shoes -- or dead rodents, left by the cat as a little present to me.

I even shake out my nightgowns and check in the covers at night -- especially in the summer time. I have found too many things - unexpected things - nasty things - for my feeling comfortable throwing caution to the wind. I check, okay? I just do.

But ...

well ...

I do not know WHAT I would have to do before getting dressed if one day I discovered that the odd feeling in my clothing was actually a sleeping bat!!!

When Abbie Hawkins felt a strange vibrating sensation in her bra while at work she simply assumed that it was her mobile phone ringing...

Sometimes you're the fish

I've been searching for a picture of words like "effort" and "frustration" and "out of reach" --- but nothing shows the level of frustration I feel right now over the amount of effort I've put in in my life and the fact that it's just out of reach. What's out of reach? A real degree is out of reach. It right there. I can see it. I can taste it. But I cannot get to it! If you could see little beads of salmon sweat on the forehead of that fish (do fish have foreheads?), you'd see a picture of me -- and there's the end of my journey of a thousand miles -- an end with teeth. Want a real degree? ...... [CHOMP]

The information I got last night is that without any form of any kind of accreditation or association with anyone else, my so-called degree does not, in fact, contain one transferable credit. Not one. The transfer committee won't even consider it. (Either would I. I think the committee would be right to refuse such silliness.) So it's back to the beginning again, for real. The small flame of hope I had for transfer credits has been puffed out.

I suppose this knowledge I have now, this morning - the admitted knowledge that I am once again "back to the beginning" - is probably proof that I am, deep down inside my deeply frustrated self, rejecting an "end" with teeth. I must have decided while I slept that what I will do is flop back to the bottom of the falls, and start flapping my way back up all the falling water all over again. I wonder how many fish swim at the bottom of the rapids, crying in exhaustion. We'll never know, of course. You can't see salmon sweat, and you can't see salmon tears - or hear the salmon railing at the waterfall.


The score so far is Water: 3 .... Fish: 1

'aaaat's right. One. I scored one. See, while I was up there, very near those Teeth of Doom, I looked around just a little. I know I want to be up there. I can (almost) declare boldly that no bear is going to eat me. So I get one point for taking this class. I got high enough this time to get a good look around. Frustration can be motivating ... right?

Some of the smartest work I've seen in awhile

Worth investigating!!! Look at this fascinating project. Read her blog. This is good stuff!

The Happiness Project

I'm working on a book, THE HAPPINESS PROJECT--a memoir about the year I spent test-driving every principle, tip, theory, and scientific study I could find, whether from Aristotle or St. Therese or Martin Seligman or Oprah. THE HAPPINESS PROJECT will gather these rules for living and report on what works and what doesn’t. On this daily blog, I recount some of my adventures and insights as I grapple with the challenge of being happier. THE HAPPINESS PROJECT will hit the shelves in late 2009 (HarperCollins)



Oooooh..... THAT's what does it

He may be mad, but there's method in his madness. There nearly always is method in madness. It's what drives men mad, being methodical.
G. K. Chesterton


Just say yes

Note to self:

If you spend a few hours getting the document exactly right ...

If you name and save it when you start it, but not after that ...

And then you close the document, and the little box asks you, "Do you want to save the changes?"





The answer is not no.

I think it's something in the water

Here in our state ... where even the legal system gets creative ...

When a lawyer in Tacoma, Washington, filed a lawsuit 465 pages long — with an eight-page title — the judge had enough.

Referring to a rule requiring "short and plain" allegations, Judge Ronald Leighton issued a short and plain limerick:

"Plaintiff has a great deal to say,
but it seems he skipped Rule 8-a.
His complaint is too long,
which renders it wrong.
Please rewrite and refile today."

To plan or not to plan ... that is the question

Out in the vast and varied homeschooling world, there is a debate the rest of the world knows nothing about. Right now, while the rest of you go blissfully about your business, you are completely unaware that in homes across the land there are slightly worried looking mothers trying very hard to be pleasant to their children, but not really paying attention to a word the small fry are saying. Why? Because it's the Season to Obsess Over the Plan, that's why. What if I don't cover everything? What if someone asks my kids to do long division? With remainders! Maybe I should buy this other math book this year. I mean, look at the results some of these people say they're getting with it!

The unsuspecting husband walks through the room.

Honey? What do you think? Should I just buy a whole program this time? Or should we put it together ourselves again?

What he thinks will depend directly on his experience of how best to reassure his fussy wife and how involved he wants to get in the business of all this choosing among what seem to be a thousand thousand choices -- but what I think is that the real reason the incidence of injuries spikes in the summer is - at least in part - because of the tower of homeschooling catalogs.

Of course, there is a smaller group of people inside this large group. This is the group of "un-schoolers." The stereotypical unschooler is a breed of his own, and actually exists mostly in homeschooling mythology, although I've met some in real life. The theory here is that the little child will lead - and he'll lead everything. The child will pick what to study each day, for how long, and why. The child will follow his pristine instincts, unsullied by the unfair and prejudicial Expectations of Society. (If you didn't hear a sonorous echo in that title, read it again.) The pure, clean, unspoiled child will know what to do if we just leave him to do it. All I need to do is make sure he's got whatever he needs.


I suppose that if you've got a pint-sized Einstein there at your house, and if most of your house is taken up with lab equipment, and if the adults in the house are users of the equipment and are doing a whole lot of study and experimentation for their own daily work, and if the whole of the environment is all about the science ... well, then you could make a case that the child-led learning is the way to go. That child will probably end up being able to do long division if someone shows him how.

But someone still has to show him how.

Aye, there's the rub. Someone still has to show him how.

Okay, fine. But when? It doesn't do any good to teach the squirt long division before he's learned that 3+4=7, right? There is an order to these things. And some kids are ready before other kids are. Isn't that the whole point of schooling at home? Aren't we trying to fit the education to the kid and not the kid to the education here?

Yes. That is, in my opinion and experience, the one best true reason for schooling at home. More conventional schools could do a better job of this if they tried to, but there is only so much you can do with a room full of same-aged kids. Individualized instruction, so touted in "small class sizes," is indeed The Big Benefit of being at home to learn long division - or reading - or a lot of other things. (And one of the first things I learned when my kids were little is that it's possible to learn math while wearing pajamas. Who knew!)

But now what? Not lock-step, but not planned either? How is a mother supposed to deal with that expectation? And by the way, that's all the homeschooling mother needs -- one more thing she knows perfectly well she will never be able to achieve. Instruction, but not too soon, and practice, but not too much ... and not too little. Criminy!!! Why on earth are there more and more homeschoolers? Why aren't they all in insane asylums? Or roaming the streets, murmuring, "Plan? Don't plan? Plan? Don't plan?" while flipping the pages of the newsprint catalogs with the slightly fuzzy pictures of products in them?

Because kids learn, that's why. Gardens grow, kids learn, and the summer comes again every year. There is some stuff we can depend on.

Now the homeschooling mom can breathe again, and if she's gone through the Obsession Season before, she knows what's going on. This panic attack lasts for less and less time each year, and now she knows - she just sets everything down and walks out into the yard to watch her kids for awhile.

She knows a lot of things now - this more experienced mom does.

She knows, for instance, that
that the lesson plans are really just the day's rough first draft. I think this is true whether we're schooling or not, now that I've had time to reflect and I'm not schooling any more. We make an outline or at least get a rough idea of what we want to "write" with our days, and then we begin to write.

We do make plans - and we learn that the plan is just a draft. The plan doesn't get graded. It's just a plan. After awhile, you can begin to enjoy the process itself. The revisions don't scare you any more. You realize editing your work is part of the deal. You give up on the idea that it will ever be perfect - because perfection is only possible where there is no change - which means there is no life.

Raising kids is a living thing. And schooling living minds is a living thing. And planning for living things and what they do (and the fact that you have only limited control over what they do) is what keeps gardens from becoming wild and lets them produce useful food. (That was Adam's job, right? To tend the thing?) Planning is what keeps meals from becoming unhealthy last minute snack affairs eaten whenever and wherever, and lets them become communal echoes of the Great Feast. And planning is what keep schooling from becoming a series of distractions instead of real learning. Planning does not ignore the child -- it provides for the child.

So this is my note to all the homeschooling mothers out there this summer. Go ahead and plan -- and know for sure that stuff will happen in your house that you never ordered out of a catalog. And then do a little happy dance. We work with living things.

Early me


So ... it's not like we partied. I didn't even finish my one glass of mesmerizing Rusty Grape Pinot - honestly, it tasted amazing - but it doesn't take much for me. We took a nice long time over dinner. Flatbread with roasted tomato and asparagus appetizer, which we split, followed by salad and soup (he had the salad, but we shared a bit), followed by a perfect steak with bleu cheese and roasted vegetables, which we split, followed by dessert, which we split, and coffee. Perfect.

So why am I up at 5:00 in the morning. One mostly finished glass of wine and one coffee is not enough to mess with sleep cycles. This is silly. Why am I awake???

Oooohhh..... hm. Yes. It's coming to me now. I have one day to get everything ready for class. Today is that day. Yes. Yawning, but very awake. Good heavens, you'd think I must have a final paper or at least a test or something. In reality, this whole school adventure is going swimmingly. And I love it. But there's something about being a student that messes with the mind. The part of me having a good time is looking forward to getting ready. The part of me with experience in missed assignments or forgotten schedules must be the part that wakes me up at this ridiculous hour. Maybe that's why middle aged students get that glazed look. It's sleep deprivation.



So ... hm ... what could it be? What could it be?

The instructions were to "go get the package at the post office. It's your birthday present." So I did.

And I opened it.

And it's ....

FANCY NANCY! Her favorite color is fuchsia. That's a fancy way of saying purple. She likes to write with a pen that has a plume. That's a fancy way of saying feather. And you know what? Nobody else in her whole family even asks for sprinkles!!! (On their ice cream - they just get plain old vanilla cones. Not fancy at all.)

See? I told you July is good. I love July.



If you advance confidently in the direction of your dreams, and endeavor to live the life you have imagined, you will meet with success unexpected in common hours.
Henry David Thoreau

Latin help please?

Willa, are you reading this? Any other Latin people out there? My recalcitrant husband is saying things like, "dictionary across the road," and "so, learn Latin," and "every well-educated person ought to know."

But I don't want to go over there and get the dictionary, and it wouldn't make enough sense to me anyway. Here's what I need to know. Have I got the cases right on this?

Ab ovo,
Trans media res, (should that be "trans medias res"?)
Ad finem.

Is this the translation?

From the beginning (literally from the egg),
Through the middle of things,
To the end.


"Long time strength training, becoming big stress in the jaw, it is to be accumulated."

On July 4, six-time Nathan's-hot-dog-eating champ Takeru Kobayashi will try to reclaim his title from Joey Chestnut. Last year, Chestnut set a world record at the Coney Island contest by downing 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes. In a 2007 "Sports Nut," Jason Fagone explained the brutal consequences of eating all that meat.

(Click on the pic of the dogs and the dudes for the full and over-full saga.)